Friday, December 3, 2010

John Leonard's 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

Posted by: "Jennifer Evans"   toomuchfun33333

Thu Dec 2, 2010 10:49 am (PST)

2010 Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

Note: I typed out
this 2½ minute speech for the concert and awards ceremony for the Middle East
club event the night before the rally this September. I had been warned to keep things under 5 minutes.
As it came time for the ceremony on stage, at the front of the rather boisterous
audience, I quickly realized that any talk should have something like a 20
second maximum and shit canned what was to be my speech. Here it is now.

Thanks to Mike
and everyone else who organized this high energy event, Steve for nominating
me, Dave Tree for the MC work and Bill for the kind introduction.

John Leonard

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -

Aren’t we a
bickering bunch in Massachusetts? !!

33 years ago, I
was set up out at a table outside the Park St. subway collecting signatures for
the first legalization initiative in Massachusetts. Willie Nelson and Johnny Rotten were looking out
from the cover of High Times on the newsstand there. As I remember, that was just about the time
of the end of Tom Forcade’s reign at High Times. The common buzz among advocates for
legalization was that it was all going to be legal within 10 years. I knew that was naïve bullshit. This was going to be a very long struggle I
realized at the time.

My realization was
not to be disappointed. It’s been many
years. Have things changed? They sure have. In ’77, I had tried to open an account at one
bank for our organization and was refused as our cause was said to be so
reprehensible. When an article and
appeared in a local newspaper interviewing two of the lead initiative activists,
one was fired soon afterward from his town job without cause. This was followed by the state police in a
classic COINTELPRO move to disrupt the organization by lying to one member that
another member had helped police to get out of a supposed arrest by informing
on them. One member ended fleeing the
state in fear. Their disruption campaign
worked for the moment.

Fast forward to
2008. Witness the massive victory by 2/3
of the voters of personal possession decriminalization. By 1977 standards, just the fact that it got
on the ballot was miraculous. We can now
not only get marijuana reform on the ballot, but, depending on the particular reform
issue, we can actually win. This was the
result of a lot of hard work by many people over time and not just an accident
of demographics.

When we held the
first rally of the modern era in North Adams, the town initially only permitted
us to have it at the town dump as they thought that was the only place
appropriate to our cause. Thanks to pro
bono legal assistance we were able to hold it in the downtown center. We brought in a life sized Reagan figure and
had it give a prerecorded speech smoking a huge faux joint brought out there
strapped to the roof racks of Andrew’s van.
That was fun. Jack Herer was
there, frustrated in his effort to smoke a pipe by all the police eyes closely
watching the few of us. Our rally was
countered picketed by DARE types across the street. Things have changed. We now do rallies on the Boston Common in
spite of the mayor doing everything in his power to stop us. Even the Boys Club has run the food vending
at the rally.

importantly, we can win votes for decriminalization and medical marijuana and
we are coming close to winning votes for legalization in the most socially
liberal states. We no longer have to
play the role as outsider. A lot of
folks that believe in this cause are actually voting. We are within reach of actually going much
further. When elections are close and a
candidate’s stance on the marijuana issue may make a several percent difference
in his or her vote tally, our issue becomes a major player.

Change will really accelerate at that point. Please register your friends to vote and
encourage them to actually vote when the time comes.

I have recently read that legalization for
Massachusetts is just possibly a couple years away. I think there is a lot of hard work still ahead
of us. Two years, maybe. But maybe more, a few more years’ hard work
digging in the trenches on the front lines, however frustratingly slow that
sounds. The not very realistic
assessment of the future I would always hear back in the ‘70’s rings in my ears
again. This is hard work that requires
patience and persistence. There is still
a lot of hard work for many years more to effect the change we want in much of
the conservative backwaters of America.
Pace yourself to a rhythm that can be kept up for many years. Unreal expectations, frustration, and burn
out are not our friends.

I want to thank
everyone I’ve worked with closely through the years – you all know who you are:
Scott, Bill, Maddy, Mike, Steve, Jon, Joe, etc., etc. All that hard work you’ve all done inspires
me. I want publicly remember Daniel
Rose, a great hard working guy who would have become one of the best
petitioning organizers in the state save for his untimely death. The harder the petitioning challenges he
faced, the more determined he became.
Great guy missed.

I also want to
specially acknowledge great friends Jon and Lloyd. I was petitioning down in Martha’s Vineyard this
Summer and was involved in an accident that put me into intensive care. Lloyd found me after the accident and grabbed
my gear and petitions in the aftermath.
Jon plugged right through the petitioning work non-stop and finished the
job at hand in time for my release from the hospital. I got in field reports at the hospital as I
was recovering. Nothing made me feel
better faster than hearing of the signatures pouring in. Great friends like that are a rare thing.


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